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SLOW LEARNER by Thomas Pynchon


Early Stories

by Thomas Pynchon

Pub Date: April 16th, 1984
ISBN: 0316724432
Publisher: Little, Brown

Five stories, dating from 1959 through 1964, four of them written while Pynchon (Gravity's Rainbow) was still in college--plus an introduction that's fetchingly modest about this gathering of juvenilia. (". . . My best hope is that, pretentious, goofy and ill-considered as they get now and then, these stories will still be of use to somebody, someplace, with all their flaws intact, as illustrative of typical problems in entry-level fiction, and cautionary about some practices which younger writers might prefer to avoid.") "The Small Rain"--about an Army detail cleaning up after a deadly Louisiana hurricane--introduces a highly hip, literary, and ironic main character who, in different guises, will show up in all the other stories as well. "LowLands" introduces Pynchon's yet-to-be-developed interest in the poetries of physics, as does "Entropy." "Under the Rose"--Egypt, 1890s, colonial and baroque--is abrim with rather pointless erudition (siphoned, Pynchon confesses in the introduction, from an old Baedeker guide). And "A Secret Integration" offers some whiz-kids involved in cultural subversion in the cause of liberal values; while there's one credible, three-dimensional character here (an alcoholic jazz musician), this piece also bites off a bit more than it can chew. Both stories, though, do point the way to the novelist Pynchon was to become--with foreshadowings of his problematic encyclopedic qualities. And, throughout, there's the nascent sense of Pynchonesque display: alert intelligence, quite in-the-know and savvy, easy for a reader to admire--but not quite participate in or feel with. Intriguing material for Pynchon fans and critics.